ART Dela Cruz is aware he’s the surprise selection in the Gilas Pilipinas training pool for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
And he knows exactly why he’s been brought to the team tasked to retain the gold before basketball-crazy Filipinos this December.
“Andito naman ako or 'yung Ginebra para hawahan yung mga players sa sistema ni coach (Tim Cone), para ipakita sa kanila yung movements, yung depensa, yung system mismo, especially yung galaw namin sa team,” said the young forward.
Dela Cruz is one of six Barangay Ginebra players Cone named to the 15-man pool to make it easier for the other players to adopt the system of the winningest coach in PBA history, considering the short window Gilas has to prepare for the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 showpiece.
And as much as everyone else was surprised with his inclusion, so did the son of former PBA player and now Columbian Dyip consultant and namesake Art Dela Cruz.
“Kung iisipin mo, ang tagal kong injured tapos bigla kang sinama dito,” said the 27-year-old wingman out of San Beda. “Tsaka ang dami namang puwede, nandiyan naman yung ibang teammates ko.”
He appreciates the trust given him by Cone.
“Parang nakita ko yung value ko sa coach na ito. Kaya thankful ako kasi para sa isang kilalang coach na sinasama ka sa listahan niya, laking tiwala ang ibinigay niya sa akin,” he said.
Lest it be forgotten, Dela Cruz was a part of the Gilas Pilipinas training pool of former coach Chot Reyes preparing for the 2017 South East Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship.
But as fate would have it, he ruptured his Achilles tendon on the first day of a scheduled three-day training camp in Tagaytay and aborted a stin with the national team.
Now he gets another crack at Gilas Pilipinas and he doesn’t mind if it is only for a limited role only.
“Masaya kasi hindi naman lahat ng players, from the PBA to the collegiate, hindi naman nakakakuha ng ganitong opportunity. Kaya ayun, overwhelming,” he said.